Wanaka is arguably one of the most beautiful towns in New Zealand and home to some of the most beautiful nature imaginable. Surrounded by mountains, you can find an endless number of hikes near Wanaka – either right in town or just a short drive away!

On most of these hikes, you’ll get awesome views of Lake Wanaka and the mountain range surrounding the lake (and Lake Hawea). There’s even a hike on an island in Lake Wanaka!

With a ton of amazing cafes, restaurants, and hikes that are easily accessible, Wanaka makes for a great base if you want to do some amazing hikes and enjoy nature close by.

There are obviously a lot more than 5 hikes near Wanaka but these are some of our favourites that we recommend doing if you’re spending some time here!

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5 awesome hikes near Wānaka

Quick breakdown of your trip:

  • 🚗 Getting there: Wānaka is located an hour from Queenstown. The easiest way is to go by car. If you need a car rental, check out DiscoverCars for the best rates from Queenstown (or another airport city).
  • 🏨 Where to stay: There’s a bunch of great accommodation near Wanaka.
    • For hotels, we recommend Edgewater as the best location by the lake.
    • If you’re on a budget, we recommend Adventure Wanaka Hostel to get the most bang for your buck.
    • For the most cozy experience, consider staying at Altamont Lodge.
  • ☀️ Best time to visit: January through March for hiking (peak summer).
  • 👩🏼‍⚕️ Insurance: Make sure your adventures are insured with SafetyWing.

I think we say this about every area in New Zealand but honestly, Wanaka is a special place. The fact that there’s so much to do in and around a small mountain town makes it a must-visit for anyone travelling to New Zealand.

We’ve talked to so many travellers who say Wanaka is one of their favourite places in the country.

During our time in Wanaka, we’d get up in the morning and go find some good coffee in town and then go explore the mountains in the area. After a hike, we’d go down to the lake before cooking some dinner at home or going to one of the many great food places in town (Kai Whakapai Eatery and Burrito Craft are some of our go-to’s).

The hikes in this post are just a sample of what you can expect to do here in town. Let’s dive in!

Hiking Tip: Look up the trail on AllTrails before starting your hike 🗺️. You can find important trail information such as recent wildlife sights and trail closures. Check out the free version here or get a 7-day free trial of AllTrails+ here.

#1 Mount Iron Track right in Wanaka

Amazing view from the top of Mount Iron in New Zealand.
Jo hiking up Mount Iron near Wanaka.

Practical information about Mount Iron Track Wanaka
Distance: 4.7 km return / 2.92 miles return
Elevation: 241 m / 790 ft. elevation gain
Type: Loop trail (can be done multiple ways)
Length: 1.5-2.5 hours return 
Difficulty: Moderate (bit of elevation and uneven surface)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Mount Iron Track Wanaka.

Hiking up the local Mount Iron Track in Wanaka

Dom smiling while hiking near Wanaka.

The Mount Iron Track is probably one of the most popular hikes when you look up hikes or things to do in Wanaka. It’s a very local track where you’ll see trail runners, dog walkers, and people who live right next to Mount Iron Track hiking the loop trail daily.

This trail literally starts from town and the top of Mount Iron is probably one of the best viewpoints to see all of Wanaka from. It was super convenient because we stayed in the neighborhood right under Mount Iron so we actually did this hike a few times.

We hiked up at 10 pm once under the full moon and it was quite a fun experience hiking up while nobody was on the trail. And once we got to the top the moon was shining and the view overlooking Lake Wanaka was pretty awesome!

This hike isn’t that challenging and it’s more of a hill than anything. It’s great if you’re looking to get out and stretch your feet for a few hours (1.5 to 2 hours).

We’d definitely recommend doing the Mont Iron Loop trail if you’re looking for something close to town and don’t want to drive. It offers some pretty cool views overlooking Wanaka and once you’re done you can always go for a coffee in town! 😉

Read our full guide to Mount Iron here.

📍 Want to know about all the best spots in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Then check out our New Zealand Maps with +200 locations around the country that we have visited during our 8 months of living and travelling in NZ! 🗺️

#2 Mou Waho Island hike

Jo taking in the view from Mou Waho Island near Wanaka.
Dom exploring Mou Waho Island in New Zealand.

Practical information about the Mou Waho hike
Distance: 2.6 km return / 1.61 miles return
Elevation: 174 m / 570 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out (with some side rails as well if you want)
Length: 1-1.5 hours return (depending on how long the water taxi gives you) 
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for the Mou Waho Island Walk.

Exploring Mou Waho Island on Lake Wanaka

Beautiful view of Lake Wanaka from Mou Waho.

This is probably one of the most unique hikes we did in New Zealand this time around! It feels more like an afternoon trip than a hike since the hiking aspect is such a small part of this whole adventure – but it is such a fun and unique thing to do in Wanaka that it’s worth including this hike in this post.

Basically, it’s a trip to Mou Waho Island which is a small island in the middle of Lake Wanaka. You’ll be able to see Mou Waho when you hike up Roys Peak or Isthmus Peak but on this day trip, you’ll actually go hiking on the island.

You’ll take a water taxi from town to the island (needs to be booked in advance) and you’ll get to learn about Wanaka, the Māori legends of Lake Wanaka, and some other fun stories along the way. The water taxi takes roughly 30 minutes and the water can get quite wavy – which was actually quite surprising to us.

Once you make it to Mou Waho, the guide will give you some information about where to hike and what to see on the island. We found that with the time given it’s worth just doing the standard trail and hanging around the little lake at the top.

So basically, you take a water taxi to Mou Waho Island and then you hike up the Mou Waho walking trail to a little lake with a beautiful view!

You can read our full guide on Mou Waho Island here.

PS: You need to book this tour in advance because the water taxi usually only goes out once a day and there’s no other way to get to Mou Waho Island!

#3 Hiking up Isthmus Peak

Stunning male red deer in the mountains near Wanaka.
Beautiful hiking trail in the mountains near Wanaka.

Practical information about Isthmus Peak 
Distance: 15.8 km return / 9.81 miles return
Elevation: 1155 m / 3789 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 6-7 hours return (Can take longer if you take your time and enjoy the views) 
Difficulty: Hard (this is an absolute leg burner of a trek)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Isthmus Peak

Making the journey up to Isthmus Peak

Dom enjoying the view over Lake Wanaka while hiking Isthmus Peak.

We are so glad we found this hike because we’ve done Roy’s Peak before and loved it – but we wanted to find something similar with fewer crowds! Isthmus Peak checks all of the boxes: It’s close to Wanaka, of similar difficulty, with breathtaking views of the lake. This was the perfect alternative to Roy’s Peak! 

It’s a 20-25 minute drive from Wanaka in the direction of Lake Hawea to the trailhead of Isthmus Peak.

One of the best things about this hike is that you’ll have awesome views of Lake Hawea the whole way up and once you get to the ridgeline near the top you’ll also be able to see Lake Wanaka!

It’s definitely a challenging hike with a lot of altitude and these views aren’t taken for granted. It can be quite a gruelling hike – especially when it gets quite windy (which it did). That being said, as long as you go in nice weather, it’s a safe hike to do with clear paths, no steep drop-offs, or anything like that.

Many people (us included) say it’s about the same difficulty as Roy’s Peak but without all the people since it’s a lot less known and less touristy.

Try to go on a nice clear day because on this hike you are quite exposed to the elements. Going a clear day will make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable and the views from the top more rewarding! 

The trail itself is very well maintained and easy to follow and takes you through some private land (so please be extra respectful when hiking this trail), up some zig-zags, and up a ridgeline until you get to Isthmus Peak!

From the top, you also get one of the best panoramic views. That’s why, if you’re looking for a challenging but rewarding hike near Wanaka, Isthmus is the one to do!

You can read our full guide on hiking Isthmus Peak here.

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#4 Diamond Lake and Lake Wanaka Lookout Track

Practical information about Lake Wanaka Lookout Track 
Distance: 5 km return / 3.1 miles return
Elevation: 275 m / 902 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 2-2.5 hours return (can be done faster)
Difficulty: Moderate
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Lake Wanaka Lookout Track.

Hiking to the Lake Wanaka & Diamond Lake Lookouts

Lake Wanaka and Diamond Lake are the two main attractions on this hike which has many different names… Lake Wanaka Lookout, Diamond Lake Track, and Rocky Mountain Track are the most common ones.

No matter what you want to call this trail, it’s a great little hike! You’ll hike up to a viewpoint overlooking Diamond Lake first and then you can continue up to another lookout where you get a good view overlooking Lake Wanaka!

The trailhead is located just outside of Wanaka a short 20-minute drive from town – but it’s away from a good chunk of the tourists and a more quiet area to hike and explore. The Diamond Lake Conservative Area is a more local and quiet place that doesn’t get as explored as some of the more popular hikes.

The day we hiked up to the lookouts the parking lot was relatively busy but we met maybe 10-15 people on the hike which isn’t much compared to some of the other more popular trails in the area (i.e. Roy’s Peak). The track itself is well-maintained and easy to follow!

First, you’ll get to Diamond Lake which you’ll walk halfway around (either direction). Once you’re halfway around the lake, you’ll continue the hike up the hill where you’ll get more views, first of Diamond Lake and later of Lake Wanaka.

The viewpoint overlooking Lake Wanaka is a good spot to enjoy lunch or a snack with a great panoramic view before making the trip back down to the trailhead. There are a few benches up there but we sat on the grass closer to the lake and took in the views instead!

This is another great morning or afternoon hike that you can do if you’re not looking for a full-day trek. You can easily drive from Wanaka to the hike and be back in town for coffee in 3-4 hours!

This is a great hike if you’re looking for something close to Wanaka that’s not too long or too challenging!

#5 The Iconic Roys Peak Track

Us when we hiked Roy’s Peak back in 2017!

Practical information about Roys Peak Track
Distance: 16.3 km return / 10.12 miles return
Elevation: 1310 m / 4297 ft. elevation gain
Type: In-and-out trail
Length: 7.5-8 hours return (Average time changes for most people) 
Difficulty: Hard (Long hike with a lot of elevation)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Click here to see a trail map for Roys Peak Track.

The World famous hike up to Roy’s Peak

Last but certainly not least! This list wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t include the famous Roy’s Peak! This 16-kilometre strenuous hike is famous for its incredible viewpoint overlooking Lake Wanaka, and it’s very popular (especially for sunrise).

Out of all the hikes in Wanaka, it’s safe to say that Roy’s Peak is by far the most popular one – likely because of the iconic photo you get overlooking Lake Wanaka and the incredible mountains in the background.

We get it, the views and everything are unbeatable, there’s no doubt about it. But we honestly found Isthmus Peak to be a better hike because there were way fewer people on it! But if you’re only in Wanaka for a few days and want to check it off your bucket list, then you should totally do Roy’s Peak!

Once you get to the trailhead you’ll make the grind up which is a lot of zig-zagging. The good news is that because of all the elevation, you do get rewarded quickly with awesome views – and you can see them the entire way to the viewpoint and the peak.

Very quickly you’ll be able to see Mou Waho Island as well so that’s quite fun. If you look at the picture above, Mou Waho is the second (smaller) island in the lake.

The further and further you get up the mountain the views just continue to get better. On a clear day, the views from Roy’s Peak have to be one of the best on the whole south island and that’s why it’s such a popular hike.

PS: The iconic viewpoint from Roy’s Peak isn’t actually at the top of the mountain but from the viewpoint about 15 minutes before the peak.

What to bring on your hikes around Wānaka

Jo taking in the view from the top of Mount Iron.

Since all of these hikes near Wanaka are quite different in terms of difficulty, terrain, and distance you’ll need to pack differently for each hike. You can check out our guides for each of the individual hikes to see exactly what we suggest bringing on each of them, but below we’ve listed out a general list.

We use hiking poles on almost every hike we do and since there is quite a bit of elevation on most of these hikes, hiking poles will come in handy. The same thing goes for hiking shoes… We recommend wearing proper footwear – especially for some of the more challenging hikes.

Also, make sure you check the weather beforehand and plan accordingly. You can use this list below as a guide and inspiration for the hikes you plan to go on.

General packing list for hikes in New Zealand:

  • Water! We always bring our LifeStraw bottles when hiking. We suggest you bring at least 1.5-2 litres for most hikes so you have enough – especially during the summer months.
  • Sunscreen!! There have been multiple occasions while we’ve been hiking in New Zealand and the UV index has shown between 8 and 10!! Even on cloudy days, you can get really sunburned.
  • A power bank is good to bring – especially if you plan to take lots of pictures and videos or if need navigation to drive back to Wanaka after you finish the hike.
  • Hiking poles also come in handy on most of these hikes. On most of the hikes here in New Zealand, we’ve been happy to have our poles with us, especially on the hikes with a ton of elevation.
  • Some snacks to enjoy at the viewpoints and stops along the way. Snacking is one of the best parts about hiking! 😉

📍 Want to know about all the best spots in Aotearoa New Zealand?
Then check out our New Zealand Maps with +200 locations around the country that we have visited during our 8 months of living and travelling in NZ! 🗺️

Before you hike in Wānaka

Check the weather

During the summer months, the weather in Wanaka is usually quite good but since it is a mountain town, you never truly know. We saw snow on some of the peaks when we visited in late January which is peak summer.

The best thing to do is to check the weather forecast for Wanaka before hiking and this will give you an idea if it’s good to hike on any given day.

You can also look more specific for the mountain you’re going to climb and see how the weather is. We always say if it’s not looking great the best thing you can do is come up with a plan B – whether that’s to hike Mount Iron or head over to one of the cute coffee shops in town!

Wear hiking shoes

We wear hiking shoes or hiking boots on almost every outdoor adventure we do – especially in New Zealand. Trail runners might be suitable as well but we didn’t want to bring both in our suitcase, so we went with hiking boots.

If you don’t have any hiking boots, we highly recommend the Newton Ridge waterproof hiking boots from Columbia. Jo got these recently and she loves them!

Leave no trace

When you go hiking (and do other outdoor adventure activities), always remember to follow the 7 principles of leaving no trace.

This means:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare.
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
  3. Dispose of waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize campfire impacts.
  6. Respect wildlife.
  7. Be considerate of others.

Renting a car in New Zealand

We’ve had a car hire here in New Zealand for our whole trip and it’s been so nice and convenient – especially when getting to some of the different trailheads.

The car we booked was through DiscoverCars and we picked it up at Queenstown Airport. DiscoverCars works like a search engine that compares all the different cars from different rental companies and shows you the best price.

It’s so convenient and we managed to snag a really good deal for ours ($50 NZD per day including insurance during peak season). The longer ahead you book your car, the more likely you are to find a good deal. You can find and hire your rental car for New Zealand here

Another option is also to rent a big enough SUV that you can sleep in some nights (this is what we did here on the south island) if you want and save some money on accommodation this way or sleep in some more remote places! 😉

There are quite a few good paid and free campsites around Wanaka if you’re looking to camp around here. By camping near Wanaka you’ll also never be far from a good trail.

Queenstown Car Rental widget.

PS: DiscoverCars doesn’t just work from Queenstown Airport. It can be used at pretty much any airport or city in the World. We’ve also used them in Italy, Portugal, and the Czech Republic.

Where to stay in Wanaka?

Speaking of accommodation, here are some of our suggestions for the best places to stay in Wānaka!

You can also browse this map if you’re looking for more inspiration:

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Recap of 5 awesome hikes in Wanaka

Wanaka is one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand and home to some amazing hikes. Wanaka is by far one of our favourite places on the south island (along with Mt Cook, Milford Sound, and Queenstown).

We’ve been to Wānaka many times since we used to live in Milford Sound, and every time we get to visit this beautiful part of the country we try to explore more of the mountains in the area. It’s such an awesome place to visit if you love outdoor adventures like hiking and mountain biking.

If you have any questions about these hikes, Wānaka, or anything else related to New Zealand, feel free to DM us on Instagram or leave a comment below. Enjoy your time in Wanaka!

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